Following Roman Abramovich scrutiny, Portugal tightens …

Posted By on March 20, 2022

Roman Abramovich watches Chelsea and Arsenal play the UEFA Europa League final at Olimpiya Stadionu in Baku, Azerbaijan, May 29, 2019. (Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

(JTA) In response to scrutiny over the naturalization of Russian-Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich, Portugals government is tightening its law that allows the descendants of Sephardic Jews to become citizens.

Applicants must now demonstrate an effective connection with Portugal, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said Wednesday, according to the Publico newspaper. That involves proof of several visits to the country or a property inheritance.

Abramovich, who made billions in Russias energy industry under President Vladimir Putin, acquired Portuguese citizenship through the law last year. But even before Putins invasion of Ukraine, which has been widely condemned in the West and has triggered wide-reaching sanctions on Abramovich and other Russian oligarchs for their perceived ties to Putin, critics took issue with Abramovichs claim to Sephardic ancestry.

Abramovich was born in Russia, where most Jews are Ashkenazi. But Eastern Europe has for centuries also been home to many thousands of Jews with Sephardic ancestry.

Abramovichs application was approved by the Jewish Community of Porto, one of two Jewish communities certified by the government to vet applications under the 2015 law. Last week, Portuguese police detained the Porto communitys rabbi, Daniel Litvak, on suspicion of fraud linked to naturalization applications. He was released pending further investigation and may not leave the country.

The Porto community in a statement this week denied any wrongdoing, defended its rabbi and said it is halting its cooperation with the government on certifying applications. Abramovichs application was treated no differently to all others, the community also said.

The change in the Portuguese law will not be retroactive, meaning Abramovichs citizenship will not be revoked.

Portugal may impose sanctions on Abramovichs property on Portuguese soil, Santos Silva said, but he cannot be prevented from entering the country.

David Mendoza, a London-based genealogist and president of the Sephardic Genealogical Society, on Monday published a statement criticizing the Porto community organization. He wrote that his organization is not aware of any proof of Abramovichs Sephardic ancestry and called on the Porto community to provide details on the vetting process for his application.

The changes to Portugals law make it more similar to the equivalent law in Spain. Both countries enacted the laws to atone for the persecution of Jews during the Inquisition period.

The post Following Roman Abramovich scrutiny, Portugal tighten rules for Sephardic Jews applying for citizenship appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Following Roman Abramovich scrutiny, Portugal tightens rules for Sephardic Jews applying for citizenship


Following Roman Abramovich scrutiny, Portugal tightens ...

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